Current Role of Nuclear Power
In the U.S. today there are 99 operating nuclear power reactors with a total installed capacity of about 100 GWe. This represents about 10% of U.S. electrical generating resources. However, the high reliability and base load status of these plants results in a contribution of about 20 percent of the actual U.S. electricity generation.
More importantly, these 99 nuclear power reactors are the source of 63.3% of our clean-air electricity. Other sources include hydro at 21.2%, wind at 13%, geothermal at 1.3% and solar at 0.7%.
The contribution of nuclear to clean, reliable electricity is threatened by the approaching, inevitable retirement of existing reactors. NRC licenses expire and reactor retirements begin in 2029. All currently operating plants will retire by 2050.
Despite the advantages of high reliability, competitive generating costs, and low environmental impact, the potential for new builds in the U.S. of GWe scale, conventional plants is not very promising, especially for utilities in unregulated markets. This hesitance is due to inherently uncertain licensing and construction costs and durations, and perceived health and environmental risks.
The NuScale SMR has key characteristics that answer many of the concerns raised by communities as utilities consider new nuclear for their future generation portfolio.